YOSHE KALB by I.J. Singer


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One could snip off the connecting links to the Gentile world and take this Galician Jewish Chassidic community anywhere through time -- a community both self destroying and self-renewing, its scripture-based mores shot through with mysticism and ritual. The mutual dislike between the lusty, uncouth Rabbi Melech of Nyesheva and the Rabbi of Rachmanivka was in no way dissipated by the marriage of Rachmanivka's son Nahum, the pale scholar, with the graceless, simple Serele, daughter of Melech. But it is willful, Malkah, fourth bride of Melech, who is the ultimate cause of disaster. As a result of Malkah's pursuit and Nahum's acquiescence, Malkah dies in childbirth and Nahum, in remorse for his adulterous sin, wanders blindly to another village where he is pushed into marriage with a simpleton. Nahum's desertion of Serele and unwitting bigamy, when he returns to Nyesheva, causes violence, trial and judgment, and the dead spirit of Nahum remains as a testimony and a warning. The author spins an eerie tale with earthy humor and unearthly appreciation of the terrors that lie in wait for one who would cross the barriers of his ordained path. Jewish folkways in the genre of the other Singer, Isaac Bashevis.

Publisher: Harper & Row